Fall River resident Courtney Arruda and her newborn daughter Olivia were among the first recipients of a book from Newport Hospital’s new “Reading is Healthy” program. Every baby born at the Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center now goes home with a new board book, to encourage parents to read to babies from birth.

Newport Hospital has launched a new “Reading is Healthy” program to promote family literacy.

As of Feb. 1, every baby born at the hospital’s Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center goes home with a new board book. At the hospital’s four affiliated primary care practices, each time a child under 12 comes in for an appointment, he or she can choose a gently used book to keep.

“Studies have shown a powerful link between low literacy and adverse health outcomes, such as poor control of chronic health conditions, increased hospitalizations, even higher mortality,” says Newport Hospital President Crista Durand. “Having books in the home and encouraging parents to read to their kids sows the seeds of literacy early.”

The new board books for babies are funded through the generosity of the Newport Hospital Auxiliary. The books for older children are provided through a partnership with a local non-profit literacy organization, Books Are Wings, which received a grant from the Newport Foundation to enable distribution of books to kids on Aquidneck Island. The organization is based in Providence.

Pam McLaughlin, director of patient experience at Newport Hospital, speaks about the new “Reading is Healthy” program at the Feb. 6 launch.

“The mission of Books Are Wings is to put free books in the hands of children,” says director Jocelynn White. “We believe every child should experience the joy of reading. Research suggests that a child who grows up in a home with at least 25 books on average will complete two more years of school than would a child from a home without any books all.”

Books Are Wings collects gently used books, sorts them by age group and interests, and encourages children to choose books that spark their curiosity.

So far, books have been distributed to more than 100 pediatric patients. Plans call for extending the program to the hospital’s Emergency Department next fall, reaching potentially thousands of children who come through the ED each year. At the birthing center, an average of 500 families a year will be going home with a new book to enjoy.

“My own mother was a kindergarten teacher and read to me every day when I was a child; I continued that tradition with my own two boys,” says Durand. “Giving away books is good for our patients — and a great way for us to give back to our community.”


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